Go Ape: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes: Director’s Cut

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As an addendum to my heavily-hit post on CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT, here’s a section from my analysis:

This is my favorite film in the series, with a sleek unique 70’s sci-fi atmosphere and a stalwart cast. Along with Ricardo Montalban as the sympathetic human protecting the only talking ape, Roddy McDowall gets the chance to shine as we see him go from docile ape to raging guerilla. It’s a cool, subtle, pantomimic performance and his transformation from Cornelius into Caesar by the film’s violent climax is wholly realized. His fiery speech to the mobilized primate army is a career high point for McDowall. That and the verbal duet between him and an empathetic government aide (well played by Hari Rhodes) are also delicious. No surprise since the script was penned by Paul Dehn, who contributed much of the wit to the Bond series. The awesome Severn Darden is a cruel joy as the chief bureaucratic torturer, although the scenes of him shocking the monkeys are still disturbing.

In fact, the original cut of the film was far too bloody and frightening for preview audiences and the rating board, so nine minutes were removed and the dark ending altered to make it appear Ceasar spares the life of the film’s villain, Governor Breck (Don Murray in a juicy performance and a great turtleneck).

After finally seeing all that excised, altered footage on Blu-ray, I’m even more impressed with the film and still consider it my favorite. Director J. Lee Thompson does an excellent job balancing the scale and tension of the primate takeover, using only the sterile ghostly lit backdrop of Century City (and Robert Surtees crisp cinematography is terrific). The reinstated violence is bloody and disturbing, with many close-ups of apes and humans being shot in the face. The most hardcore moment has the revolting apes stacking the crimson police bodies like cordword — and then beating the corpses with gun butts.

Of course, we finally get to see what happens to Don Murray, and McDowall’s final speech is complete and prophetically apocalyptic. I’ll say it again: this is one of his finest performances. I do rather miss the “no” spoken by the female ape edited into the original cut to make it appear as if Caeser succumbs to integration and compassion, but this fiery climax is the most apropos, leaving an even more very 1970’s feeling of ominous future shock.

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7 Responses to “Go Ape: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes: Director’s Cut”

  1. I’m a dork for these movies to the point where any criticism of the first four always leaves me baffled as if, well, if YOU don’t get it then there’s nothing I can, or care to, say that will change your mind. I’ll be sure to see this uncut version. I still have never seen “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” (which looks dreadful), so maybe I’ll double’em up.

  2. christian Says:

    Sadly, BATTLE is dreadful. It looks like the perfect segue to a tv series…

  3. halmasonberg Says:

    Agreed. The director’s cut of CONQUEST is a revelation. It’s easily the best film after the original (which still packs a whollop, IMHO). And yeah, though I want to like it, BATTLE is, simply put, boring.

  4. Wonderful stuff Christian, my APES experience is limited to PLANET, BENEATH and, I think, ESCAPE. I will check out CONQUEST this weekend if at all possible.

  5. Oh you will join the Ape revolution after that…Let me know your thoughts….

  6. […] Now that I’ve seen the Director’s Cut, you can go ape here for more monkey business Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)New “Apes” Remaking […]

  7. […] UPDATE: Now that I’ve seen the Director’s Cut, you can go ape here for more monkey business. […]

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